I remember when the first multi-tools came out, and still have a pair of one of Gerber’s older designs. But, today’s models are more comfortable and more streamlined than ever, and that’s especially true for Gerber’s new for 2010 Strata multi-tool.
Call me a gadget hound, but I like tools I can take with me everywhere, including high end flashlights, knives, and multi-tools. It’s been a long-term fascination for me as well. It’s been well over 15 years since I got my first multi-tool from Gerber, but I can remember it vividly because I was conscripted into service with it at a place I used to work. I always carried the multi-tool and a SAK with me to work, and at one point, a lot of the ladies wanted to have their ergonomic keyboard trays installed in their desks. Knowing I was always fixed for light work, I was the one nominated to do the job. I spent three days with the Gerber (Multi-Plier model, I think) installing all of those trays, and I learned one thing during the process. Don’t advertise the fact that you carry a sturdy multi-tool at all times. It’ll just cause you work! Even today, I’ve still got a pair that are at least ten years old, if not older. I’ve tried researching the models on the net to pinpoint its age, but I know it’s been with me at least a decade. As you can see in the picture, there’s been a few changes from the older models to the newer ones like the Strata that will be available in February.
The Strata is a very nice multi-tool setup which includes spring-loaded pliers, scissors, carbide wire cutter, wire crimpers, a saw, a knife blade (half serrated), flathead driver, a Phillips driver, file, and the ubiquitous can/bottle opener. They’ve even included a tool for opening clamshell retail packages. I’m not sure which audience that tool is intended for exactly, but I can see the Strata meeting the needs of a few different markets. Folks in the IT world will be just as well outfitted with the Strata as us woods bums. The Strata comes with a nylon carry case that is configured with loops for either horizontal or vertical carry on your belt. I like that, because for some reason, I prefer carrying things like my phone or other EDC items in a horizontal fashion.
One thing I noticed right off the bat about the Strata was the quality feel of the product. It felt substantial and beefy in the hand, and the opening and closing of the butterfly configuration and the various small tools was quite nice. I recently picked up a high end multi-tool from another maker, and opening that set up had bit of a gritty feel to the action. I’m sure that will probably smooth out over time, but the Strata’s action was smooth and silky out of the box. Of course, that would be necessary since the pliers are spring-loaded, and you’d want a smooth action to get the most out of the pliers part of the tool. But certainly, this is a full sized multi-tool, and you’re probably not going to go the pocket carry route with it.
Part of the comfort of the Strata’s handles comes from the inserts in the handle that appear to be made of some type of molded nylon/polymer material. Working in concert with the countoured edges of the handles, those inserts help distribute the pressure of the work out evenly on your hands. I’ve had multi-tools that gouged deep grooves in my hands when I’m doing some intense work, but it’s apparent that Gerbers and others are addressing this issue by developing tools that are more ergonomic and that are easy on your paws. Another nice feature of the Strata is that all of the tools can be accessed from the outside of the handles, so you don’t have to open up the pliers to get to the tool you need. Not stopping there, Gerber added a thumb stud to the regular blade so you can easily deploy that blade in a one-handed fashion. I like that aspect a lot. Just for this reason alone, I’ve always felt the need to carry a separate pocket knife with my multi-tools because I want the ability to open a blade with one hand just in case the other hand is busy on a project or task at the time. Though it probably won’t obviate the need for another knife completely, it does make me feel a lot more comfortable in case there’s a time when the Strata is all I have on me to use.
Additionally, the Strata also offers a lock-up function for all of the included tools. Swing out a tool like the knife blade, the file, or the saw and once they settle into position, Gerber’s Saf.T. Plus locking system secures them into place. After you’re done using the tool, you just pull the spring-loaded tab away from the bottom of the tool (nested in the molded handle insert) and then you can fold the tool back into its little hideaway in the handle. This locking system is pretty well thought out and does a nice job overall of keeping the tools in place and from folding up on you during use. The only negative thing I noticed about the tools in general was was some lateral movement in the saw blade. There’s a spacer between the saw blade and the small driver tool next to it, but the saw blade seemed to wiggle a bit more than what I’m accustomed to in a device of this type–not a tremendous amount, but just a little bit. I used the saw on several different things and didn’t notice any ill effects or performance problems related to the lateral play in the tool. However, only time will tell how it stands up to the various outdoors chores we do on a regular basis. My understanding is that the Strata comes with a lifetime warranty, so that should put your mind to ease quite a bit. It did mine, and I’ve heard some great stories about Gerber’s service when people return products for repair and replacement. A couple of the stories I’ve heard seemed to indicate that Gerber went above and beyond in taking care of their customer.
I’ve used the Strata now for just under a month, but enough to know that I like this multi-tool a great deal. For me, it’s a great balance of tools for use in the outdoors as well as every day life. For instance, the needle nose pliers are great to use for fishing tasks as well as small work like making snares and such, and the wire cutters come in handy for those tasks as well. But, they can also be used for other things I enjoy doing like working on my computers and other electronics. I keep an assortment of screws handy in my woods pack for attaching things like gigs to woods shafts, and there always seems to be a need to fix something while I’m out, so the driver heads aren’t out of place in the outdoors either. Throw in the saw, file, can opener, bottle opener, and the other tools, and you’re just about ready for any problem you have on the trail.
Is there anything I’d like to change about the Strata? Well, if I were 100% honest, I’d have to say yes. When comparing it to my older Gerber Multi-Plier, I noticed the old model had that great U.S.A stamp on the side. The Strata doesn’t have that stamp. I guess that’s just today’s reality of living in a global economy and trying to stay competitive in the marketplace. But, there’s still that little tickle in the back of my brain that nags me a bit about wanting that U.S.A. stamp back on the side. However, considering the fit and finish of the whole affair, it’s hard for me to complain about the ensemble Gerber has put together here with the new Strata multi-tool. Also, it’s probably not fair to harp on the same thing time and again, especially when they are able to produce great tools at excellent price points–like the Metolius Folder we reviewed last year. MSRP for the Strata is $104.00, but as it usually happens, I’m sure you’ll be able to find them online for much less once they become available next month.
All in all, the Gerber Strata is one of the nicest and most comfortable multi-tools I’ve used to date. It’s a terrific evolutionary step in their product line. The features are well balanced for every day use as well as for fun time out in the dirt. If you’re in the market for such a tool, I’d suggest you start by taking a look at the Strata. I think you’ll like what they’ve come up with and might not need to look any further!